By Alice Keesing
Advertiser Education Writer
A fact-finding panel charged with resolving deadlocked teacher contract negotiations has leaned in favor of Hawaiis teachers, recommending a raise of about 19 percent.
The panels report also reveals tensions surrounding the drawn-out negotiations, stating that the states chief negotiator was uncooperative during hearings. Davis Yogi responded yesterday by questioning the worth of the fact-finding process.
Although the report has not been officially released, those close to the negotiations tell The Advertiser that it recommends no increases in the first two years of the contract and 3 percent in the third and fourth years, along with incremental step increases that bring the package to about 19 percent.
That is close to the 22 percent package the Hawaii State Teachers Association is seeking.
The state has said it can afford no more than an average 9 percent raise over four years. In an attempt to help the recruitment of new teachers, the state is offering a $3,700 increase per teacher, which would raise the entry-level salary 12 percent, from $29,000 to nearly $33,000.
The teachers union has said that would penalize teachers at the upper end of the pay scale, who would get a smaller percentage increase.
HSTA officials would not comment on the details of the fact-finders report, but said they are looking at it closely. Union and state officials are expected to announce on Tuesday whether they accept or reject the recommendation. If the recommendation is rejected by either party, they enter a 60-day "cooling off" period, during which the union can issue a strike notice.
Meanwhile, after being criticized in the report, Yogi yesterday questioned the productivity of the fact-finding process. Fact-finding has never resolved a teachers contract dispute in the past, he said.
"We were having very productive conversations in mediation," he said. "I would prefer a longer time in mediation."
The three-member fact-finding panel, headed by attorney Tom Crowley, was convened after a federal mediator was unable to bring the two sides together.
In their report, the panelists expressed their concern that Yogi did not attend the hearings where both parties laid out their positions. Yogi said a deputy attended in his place.
"I didnt need to be there," he said. "They were being pushy."
Yogi said he believed his time was better spent developing a new proposal to present to the union.
He also questioned a proposal last week by schools chief Paul LeMahieu to give teachers tax credits. Yogi said it would be putting it mildly to say LeMahieus suggestion came out of left field, and that such comments make it more difficult to reach a settlement.
"We should be working together," said Yogi.
The states 12,000 teachers have been without a contract since January 1999. HSTA officials say Hawaiis teachers are the lowest-paid in the nation, when adjustments are made for cost of living. They earn between $29,000 and $58,000.
Legislators will have to find money within the budget to cover any negotiated pay raises, as the governor did not include any in his executive budget for the next biennium.
The principals union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, won an arbitrated pay raise of 14.5 percent last year, which the governor has said he would veto. The state also recently agreed to an 11 percent pay raise for the United Public Workers Unit 1.
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